Will to keep going: Yolls (middle) and other Persons Affected by Leprosy (PALs ) leaning on each other's companionship to surpass the stigma and hardships that come with the disease.
As a society, we are all collectively taught to find the silver lining in everything. Even Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray would agree to look for beauty amidst poverty. But for people like Yolls, 49, a Leprosy patient in the early 2000s, finding the good in a disease that damages his skin, eyes, peripheral nerves, and respiratory system is like going through madness. He recounted, “Pakiramdam ko pinagkaitan ako na maging malaya [...] dahil sa mga matang mapanghusga at mangmang na pag-iisip ng mga taong nakapalibot sa akin.” Deserted by his own friends and family due to the stigma that comes with his infectious disease, his days were filled with fear, disgust of his own self, and the urge to take his own life.
Meanwhile, for Carlo, 36, the termination of the temporary housing and financial assistance they received from a Foundation at the peak of the pandemic made his hope falter as he and his family returned to living in the streets. With little money that he has saved from the 150-peso per day allowance from working as a volunteer, he failed to secure a decent accommodation for him and his family as landlords during that time would require a swab test - which in itself is expensive to procure. As a result, he shared, "Nandun lang kami lagi [sa labas] para matulog tas unti-unting yung pera namin naubos din.” His mind frequented questions of whether they can survive from hunger and all other risks that exist in the streets.
A song of hope: Carlo performed during the celebration of the 8th KAMADA Anniversary
Experiencing stressful life situations affects a person’s mental wellbeing and it eventually becomes an additional - yet invisible - burden. However, for people who are exposed to the ‘unpretty reality,’ it is inevitable to be affected as well. For Kristina, 25, a social worker of 5 years, handling a rape case wherein both the victim and the perpetrator were her clients was one of the most difficult tasks in her career. Especially as a social worker who prefers to be involved in the A journey to be taken: Kristina (Social Worker) groundwork, she found herself caught in a web of is making her way to fulfill her responsibilities in conflicting emotions - this is still aside from her the field.
life’s other woes.
The role of faith, hope, and courage
Yolls was diagnosed with Leprosy in March in 2000 but did not continue his MDT treatment until May in 2011. He explained, “Natatakot ako sa mga pasyenteng nakikita ko kaya gusto ko na lang mamatay, kaya lang hindi ko kayang mag[pa]kamatay kaya ako lumala nang ganito.” Soon, Yolls discovered that his disease is, in fact, curable. He thanked God for his newfound hope, “Dinala Niya ako sa isang lugar na ang mga tao ay may malawak na pag-iisip at hindi mapanghusgang lipunan.”
July 2020 was when Carlo and his family were rescued by the Manila Police District and taken to KAMADA Manila Boystown Complex where he was again met with hope. Eventually, he started volunteering as a cook for
Cook for a roof: Carlo now serves as an KAMADA where he also received an allowance.
official cook or the beneficiaries in Perhaps, there is no literal silver lining in unfortunate KAMADA Manila Boystown Complex. situations; no good in Leprosy, no beauty in poverty, but a person’s faith, hope, and courage allows them to hold on.
Commitment to advocacy: Kristina (right) carrying out her duties as a social worker doing home visitation
“Ako kasi, mas pinili kong tapangan, inalis ko yung sarili ko sa environment na nakakasakal at nagpapalala ng mental health ko. [. . . ] the rest follows na e, as of now sobrang mas kaya ko yung pressure ng work, mas nakakapag-ignite ng fire at mas nafu-fulfill ako,” Kristina articulated, and she continued, “Also, di mawawala yung family, pinagkakasya ko yung oras ko at binibigyan ko talaga ng time yung family ko, friends and myself. Malaking tulong din yung nagda-diary ako, kahit anong mangyare may times that I have thoughts na I can’t share or express so I try to express it to my diary po.”
But what is faith, hope, and courage if without help?
Yolls and Carlo were both beneficiaries of Sorok Uni Foundation. Yolls was under the UNI for PALs Program, a health assistance program for Persons Affected by Leprosy (PALs), while Carlo was under Project New Life, a temporary financial and housing assistance for Individuals and Families in Street Situations. Sorok Uni Foundation believes in a holistic intervention framework that involves providing relief, rehabilitation and empowerment, while also ensuring sustainability. Thus, under its major programs, Sorok Uni also implements several other services to match the needs of the clients.
One of the auxiliary services is the Kaagapay Mental Health Program wherein clients are encouraged to share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings to their assigned Social Worker. Their assigned Social Worker will then draft a report and relay the findings and their recommendations, with the guidance of the Head Social Worker, to Sorok Uni’s partner mental institution for initial consultation, and it will continue should it be deemed necessary. This Mental Health Intervention is a service offered to all existing clients of Sorok Uni, may they be a Dream Project Scholar, a Person Affected by Leprosy or an Individual in Street Situations.
And what is faith, hope, and courage if not shared?
When asked about his motivation to continue everyday, Yolls told us, “Para sa aking sarili at sa ibang tao na kaya kong matulungan sa pamamagitan ng tulong [din] ng ibang tao [. . .] pwede akong maging tulay para sa kanila dahil wala naman akong kakayahan [. . .] lalo na financial. Syempre para din sa pamilya ko kasi I am totally healed [. . . ] napatawad ko na sila kasi ito ang importante sa isang tao - ang pagpapatawad para mabuo ang Driven by faith, hope, and courage: Yolls has become ating pagkatao.” Yolls is now completely an inspiring educator who gives hope to other cured from Leprosy and currently works as People Affected by Leprosy. a High School Teacher at Holy Rosary College Foundation, teaching the subject “Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao.” Carlo, on the other hand, is now an official cook for KAMADA under Job Order Status and has recently started to rent his own house in Marikina.